What the Cycling Movement Can Learn from Occupy Wall Street

It emerged almost overnight, gathering strength from a pent-up and widely-held frustration. More than 200 events have been held around the country since Occupy Wall Street began with a few hundred protesters in mid-September. Now more and more events are coming together every day, attracting thousands of participants and a fair share of media attention.

More than 200 events have been held in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. Image: Daily Kos

There’s no cause anywhere on the political spectrum that isn’t a wee bit jealous of the energy and excitement behind these grassroots protests. And the cycling movement is no exception.

Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland attended both his local protests and it got him thinking about the parallels between Occupy Wall Street’s rallying cry — “We are the 99 percent” — and the 68 percent of city dwellers who say they would bike if they felt safe enough. He wonders if bike advocates could take a page from this phenomenon:

Let’s, for the sake of discussion, compare the “top 1 percent” with the last century of auto-dominated urban planning and its ongoing primacy due to the politics around transportation funding.

And many of you are aware that bicycling dominated American life in the late 19th century, only to be all but eradicated by the onslaught of the automobile (which, ironically, took over the “good roads” bike lovers pushed for). The dominance of auto-centric development, policies, and roads are what have led to the situation where we currently have only 0.6 percent of our fellow citizens who use a bicycle as their primary means of getting to work.

Outrageous right? The 68 percent should be marching in the streets! People deserve equal levels of safety whether they choose to drive a car or ride a bike!

To make change in America that’s not supported by corporations or the existing power structure (both of which apply to bicycling), you need people in the streets. It’s as simple as that. Conferences, summits, meetings with politicians, and new laws will only get you so far.

Elsewhere on the Network today: This Big City reflects on the disappearing shopping mall. Cascade Bicycle Club faces a spurious legal challenge. And Think Progress says the proper replacement for the RFK Stadium in DC is to build more city.